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Discussion in 'Ducks' started by adobechicks, Mar 3, 2012.
Are ducks cold weather hardy??
yes, very. Those down jackets you buy for winter warmth have nothing on the down coats worn by ducks.
HA that makes sense !!!! I really want some ducks but am scared because I am a big baby and don't like anything to happen to our pets.
I was wondering the same thing last fall. This is my ducks' first winter in Chicago. I did some searching and found this article:
It says that black-bellied tree ducks (a wild tropical duck found from peru to texas) can die if its legs are frozen stiff, which happens at temperatures lower than 10°F. Canadian Geese can withstand temps as low as -40°F.
I decided to play it safe and turn on the heat lamp in the coop any time the temps fell into the low teens. I watched my ducks this winter and they would go out and play happily when the temp was more than around 15 to 18, but they preferred to be inside the coop when it was any colder. On those cold days when the temp was lower than 15, if they did go out, all they wanted to do was sit on ther feet and try to keep them warm.
On the whole yes, I believe it does vary somewhat by breed... i know my Muscovy do well overall only in the -30C or worse did i need to switch on my heat lamp in the barn.
I let mine have access to the barn so they have proper shelter and water that is heated.
-30°?!?! That is cold! I am going to keep that in mind the next time I am tempted to complain about the cold here!
I have pekins/rouens they seem to do well but I can tell a difference compared to a winter day at 15 to a winter day of -20. They don't go far from there coop when its cold. I have heat lamp going all winter (more for the benefit of my eggs haven't had any cracked ones yet!) But my ducks would rather be out in a snowstorm then the coop!
They need a place where they can get out of the weather.
I put a heat lamp in the coop when it gets down to 40 or 50 below (F). Other than that, they are fine with cold. Remember they are wearing water-proof down jackets.
The lowest temperature we've had to deal with here in WI since I've had the ducks is -20 F. As long as they have access to a shelter that's well ventilated (so that it doesn't get damp and musty), but still shelters them completely from the wind and has thick, dry bedding for them to nest down in, they're perfectly fine. I've only ever lost one bird to the cold, and it was because she got locked out of the duck pen overnight.
My coops are not insulated (well, not with anything besides heaps of dry straw!), and I never turn a heat lamp on. If my birds aren't hardy enough to survive the winter where I live, then I don't want to be breeding them the following spring!
“Has anyone tested what cold temp will kill a duck?” Yes, in fact someone did.
All this talk of ducks in arctic temperatures got me to thinking, someone, somewhere must have done some experiments to see what kinds of cold temperatures a duck can tolerate. I am so glad that I don't have to deal with temperatures as low as -30, but if ducks can thrive at -30, what temperature is too cold? So, I did some digging, and I found an article from 1967 in the Journal of Wildlife management that looks at cold temperature survivability for mallards and black ducks.
Apparently, back in the 1960s, when environmental rules were soooo much less stringent, people noticed that ducks that were covered in oil tended to die more frequently in the winter. From the article:
“Most heavy losses of waterfowl due to oil pollution occur between October and April. A number of authors have suggested that exposure to cold is a very important factor contributing to the observed mortalities among oiled waterfowl during the winter”
Oh the things we take for granted these days! Imagine a time when the link between covering an animal in oil and its death was not clearly established. And apparently, oil spills were a lot more common in the 1960s.
Anyway, so the authors test the impact of covering ducks in a variety of petroleum products and putting them in a cage in a freezer at controlled temperatures. They also test the impact of cold on mallards and black ducks without any oil. Because ducks are warm-blooded, the scientists were very concerned about how the cold affects metabolic rate, because they thought (correctly) that oil makes it harder for a duck's feathers to keep the animal warm, which would impact the fat reserves of the animal as it worked to stay warm. Unfortunately, some ducks died in the experiment, but not as many as you'd think. The unoiled ducks "were able to survive exposures of -26 C for up to 36 hours [in a cage] regardless of their physical condition at the beginning of the experiment” and the article indicates that the unoiled ducks left the experiment with ample fat reserves.
The very interesting thing they found was the precise relationship between temperature and metabolic rate:
So this got me to thinking: My ducks will be just fine at very cold temperatures, but is it more economical for me to turn on the heat lamp, or pay for the additional feed they would need to keep themselves warm?
I buy commercial feed. My ducks forage in my small yard, but there's not much to eat in the dead of winter. Commercial feed for one duck costs me around $0.19 per day. According to the article in the Journal of Wildlife Management, when the temperature drops from 0 C to -20 C, there is about a 42% increase in a duck's metabolic rate. So, it stands to reason that they'd need to eat about 42% more--which would mean that feed would cost me an extra $0.08 per day.
Electricity costs me around $0.115 per kWh in Chicago. If I leave my 250 watt heat lamp on all night (about 10 hours) it will cost me around $0.29 per night. But more than one duck can use the heat lamp at a time.
It turns out that if I have 4 or more ducks (at -20 C), it is more economical for me to turn on the heat lamp at night, then to buy the extra feed that the ducks would need to stay warm without a heat lamp. Feed would be 4 x $0.08 = $0.32 per day, but the heat lamp is $0.29.